Cholera outbreak looms as shops turn toilets at Bolga Market

Concerned experts have pointed at a mounting mess inside the Bolgatanga Central Market as one of the major reasons the Upper East regional capital is on the verge of a cholera outbreak.

This is because no fewer than 200 unoccupied shops at the market, as the rainy season gets wetter, are being used as toilets and urinals by culprits whose identities panicky traders do not want to volunteer yet in public.

The unbearable whiff of human waste, blowing out nonstop from those empty shops, is everywhere as all kinds of flies hover all over the ever-busy market which is dominated by retailers dealing in vegetables, cereals, smoked fish and raw meat among other foodstuffs mostly sold naked on tables and on the ground.

The stench from the urea is so strong and the sight of the solid waste so horrid that observers are too overwhelmed to notice that there are also some heaps of garbage at a number of spots inside the market where stray pigs, too dispersed to count, always feast to their fill.

The backsides of some blocks at the market, oversaturated thanks to the faceless miscreants, look like a promising oilfield waiting for drilling in commercial quantities. They remind onlookers of the ever-wet grounds of an average diesel filling station. They have soaked so much urine to a point where it is safe to conclude they will never dry no matter how long the sun shines.

An attendant at one of the public toilets inside the market tells Starr News it costs just 30 pesewas to use the facility, yet some people prefer the unoccupied shops to answer the call of nature

Multiple reports indicate that the culprits behind the mess are some badly behaved residents who, after the traders are gone by evening, sneak into the market square at night to engage in some illicit activities till daybreak. But counter reports, coming from some storekeepers within, suggest the blame is not solely on the night stalkers. They say there are also some unscrupulous individuals who, for no justifiable reasons other than their unwillingness to pay a paltry 30 pesewa to use any of the two public toilets available inside the market, have made the vacant shops their permanent latrines- even in daytime!

“The problem is with the people- the nature of the people we have in this town,” Sammy Ansah, an attendant in charge of one of the public toilets at the market, told Starr News. “You see a toilet and you still prefer to defecate where you are not supposed to. We charge only 30 pesewas if you want to use the toilet. We make sure the toilet, too, is neat every day, but people don’t appreciate it. They will go into the empty shops to defecate. The faeces would have been more all over but the pigs you see around are also consuming them as the people mess up the place.”

About 200 empty shops have been turned into toilets

Bolga Assembly is to blame – Traders

Frustrated sources at the market say the shops-turned-latrines belong to some traders who, once upon a time, were directed to relocate to the market from a temporary ground at Sawaba, a suburb along the Bolgatanga-Bawku Road.

Those traders reportedly only rushed to the main market to secure those shops in the heat of the warnings from the Bolgatanga Municipal Assembly and, rather than relocate there as told, have remained at the temporary site up to this day, citing at least two reasons for their decided preference. The temporary site is more spacious and is even more patronised than the permanent location, according to the noncompliant traders.

“There are 7 gates leading people in and out of the market. They are all broken down. That is how bad people enter the market at night to spoil everywhere with faeces. The blame should go to the Bolga Municipal Assembly. They will come and collect money to lease stores to people but they won’t follow up to see whether the shops are being used for the decent purpose they are meant for. They are only interested in money.

“Those who collected those shops are at the other market selling whilst we are here selling. There are people who want the stores but they won’t get. People hired the shops only to abandon them to go and sell at the other market. And if you attempt right now to sell anything in those empty shops, you will see the owners coming here from the other market to fight and go back,” a market woman (name withheld) told Starr News.

Some storekeepers say the assembly is to blame for failing to ensure the shops leased out to people are not idle

The sanitation I saw there not the best- MCE

The Municipal Chief Executive for Bolgatanga, Joseph Amiyuure, was reported to have personally visited the market and left there with his head bowed in disappointment over the state of the facility just a few hours before Starr News did its own checks there.

“The sanitation that I saw there,” the MCE told Starr News at his office, “is not the best.”

He observed that the refusal of traders dealing particularly in cereals, the staple foods in northern Ghana, to obey the assembly’s quit orders had stuck a great number of shoppers at the temporary site, generally called the “New Market”.

He unwrapped how he intended to deal with that albatross, saying he would unleash the revered traditional landowners, or tindanas as they are known in the capital in the widely spoken Gurune, on the defiant grains dealers to flush them back to the “Old Market”. And he said he would fix the 7 broken gates at Atulbabisi before he would prompt the exodus of the millet merchants from the shaky site of the “New Market” back to the permanent location of the “Old Market”.

“Sanitation is my priority. Those gates must be fixed. We will get iron structures to reinforce the gates. That would be a way of excluding those outside from coming in to cause the mess at night. After we have done that, then we will now see how best we can now go into the market itself and control it within. Then, with time we can now see how we can also get the grains people into the main market. And I want to involve the landowners to get the people move,” the MCE disclosed.

The Bolgatanga Central Market is dominated by retailers dealing in vegetables, cereals, smoked fish and raw meat among other foodstuff

The mess has sparked rage at the Upper East Regional Secretariat of the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health, with the Regional Chairman of the coalition, Noble Asakeya Alagskomah, saying the mess at the market has made it a fertile ground for multiple disease outbreaks.

“The rains have begun. You can imagine what would happen when you enter into the market, the fruits and vegetables are spread and on the ground and we defecate just within those areas. It’s a fertile ground for cholera and other diseases. It calls for concern because some of the vegetables, the cabbage, the lettuce, fruits the innocent public consumes with the food they buy in town are from that market and they may not be properly washed before the food vendors add them to the food,” Mr. Alagskomah warned.

He also cautioned: “When the assembly embarks on an exercise to bring sanity to the system, members of the opposition parties should not see it as witch-hunt, except of course there is selective justice. Also, members of the ruling party should not begin to issue threats- that ‘we voted for you; you are now treating us this way; we’ll teach you a lesson’. It thwarts the efforts of the duty bearers.”⁠